Vikings returns on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 9 p.m. ET/PT for the mid-Season 5 premiere and there’s a special guest making a return.
The special guest is the legendary Viking, the famous Duke Rollo (Clive Standen), who causes further upheaval in a Kattegat still reeling from Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen) becoming its king.
WATCH BELOW: ‘Vikings’ mid-season 5 official trailer
As Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) and Lagertha flee Ivar’s murderous forces with Bishop Heahmund (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), Ivar’s tyrannical reign over Scandinavia ushers in a new dark age, the likes of which have never been seen.
Ultimately, Ivar’s reign will not go unchallenged by the sons of Ragnar and old enemies will become allies to defeat the despot who has declared himself a god on earth. Meanwhile, in Iceland, Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) battles the elements and his own settlers’ desire for revenge, to forge a Viking colony on the beautiful and desolate landscape.
Global News spoke to Standen about his return to Vikings, the atmosphere on set when he returned and much more.
Global News: So what’s going on here? You’re back on Vikings?
Clive Standen: I am, yes! He went away for a little while but you can’t keep a good, crazy bear down. If there’s a fight to be had Rollo is gonna get involved in a fight. If there’s a fight going on, or there’s a battle to be had, Rollo is gonna be there. We all know that he’s lent his boats and some of his army to Ivar and Harold. It’s that part of being a good ruler and it’s choosing what’s best for Frankia over sometimes your allegiance with family members. That’s Rollo’s point of view, not necessarily Clive Standen’s point of view, I’m not saying I agree with him (laughing). But that’s how it appears to be, which is important to say. But I also think that with Ivar and if anyone’s been watching, the boys kind of making his name for himself in Viking history. I think everyone seems to be running scared of this boy and he can’t even walk. So he might have met his match when Uncle Rollo comes back.
Rollo’s been around the block a few times. He’s been there, done that, got the T-shirt. He knows exactly what it’s like to be the runt of the family. Everyone doesn’t think you’re capable of doing anything and to be in the shadow of brothers, I think he’s going to know exactly how to play either. And I think, to be fair, this boy needs to be taken down a peg or two.
How did this come about? Did you always know that you’d come back to Vikings?
Yeah, it’s just one of those things where me and Michael [Hirst] sat down and Travis [Fimmel] was leaving the show as [his character] Ragnar and we needed to do a time jump to introduce the kids. You never want to outstay your welcome as a character. You don’t want to just be in the show for the sake of being in the show. You want to obviously be respectful of the character and the story. And I just thought “well, most of his story is played out when it went now that Ragnar is gone.” But there’s still far more for the historical Rollo to still have to tell. But the show is called Vikings and it’s not called Frankia. (Laughing) You can’t spend too much time in France because the sacrifice of the Vikings and especially these brothers that have been introduced to the story. So we decided it is almost like taking Rollo on a hiatus and we’re going to deal with that story later. And that’s my philosophy all the time. I want the characters to be in it if he can do something, and I don’t want to just be sticking around just holding up the furniture.
Did you miss playing him at all?
Always! I miss being on Vikings, just generally. It was one of those shows where you feel it’s such a special achievement and it’s very humbling to be a part of a show that deals with culture that people never really explored discursively before. They’ve always been betrayed, one-sidedly. And even in literature and in most of the historical records — where I come from anywhere in England, I’m sure in Canada — most of the documents were recorded by the Christians who invaded. So it’s kind of nice to actually see a different side and go to this culture from the inside out and go to Scandinavia and actually kind of see what this means to people. Putting the Vikings back on the map. And with that, being part of a historical show, it’s got loads of action and intrigue and adventure in it as well. Now after Season 1 and doing five years, it just feels like one of those shows that don’t come along very often as an actor.
There must be a major difference between shooting Taken and Vikings. What are the biggest differences for you personally?
Well, there’s cars and skyscrapers (laughing). It’s still full on, I mean, Taken is a network show. For Taken, we film eight days per episode and for Vikings we do three episodes in block shooting. So we do 10 days per episode. It’s 30 days for a block, then you have one director for those three episodes. Vikings has a lot more money behind it which is always fun because you can really visually indulge and make everything look spectacular as well. It’s still the same kind of relentlessness. I think Vikings taught me that I needed to be a Bryan Mills, just that relentless kind of “no one’s gonna do it for you” attitude.
We didn’t have stunt doubles in Vikings. We had to get in all the battles and sometimes you get hit in the face with shields and things. You just get on with it and some of those moments are the best moments on camera. They weren’t meant to happen but they end up onscreen. And Taken is that kind of thing where you’re getting thrown across the kitchen and smashing into kitchen cabinets and everything gets demolished in the first take. Then if you let your stunt double do it you just end up with the back of a stunt man’s head and no one can really connect with the character. So with Taken, I’ve thrown myself into everything, literally throwing myself into everything (laughing).
Was it just like old times when you went back onto the set of Vikings?
To be honest, it was different because there’s not many of us from the original crew, so to speak, left. The original characters, Travis who plays Ragnar and myself as Rollo, and everyone else had gone. And Catherine and Gabe, because even Alexander Ludwig came in Season 2 because it was a different actor in Season 1. So it felt right but it felt wrong and right. It felt like I was coming into a new generation of kids that were kind of ruling the roost. But then there was the old guard kind of coming back to remind them where their place was — which was going to be quite nice (laughing). It was good to move on because it’s a different time in Vikings but it was nice because that’s exactly what Rollo does. He comes back and it’s always like a blast from the past. But the crew were exactly the same. They become like my family about working five years, most of the year in Ireland with the same crew, literally since I got off the boat it was kind of getting back into getting teased and like I’d never been away.
How do you think fans will react to seeing you back? I watched that episode and I thought it was really good. But how do you think the fans will react because I know they saw the Vikings teaser of you coming back but they don’t know the full extent.
I think anyone that’s been on the journey with Rollo from the beginning will know that every time he does something he tries to learn from it. Then he comes back and reinvents himself so you get used to just never expecting. You expect the unexpected with Rollo. I think this is no different so I think fans are going to be slightly confused by his motives until the end. But I think it’s quite sad and it’s quite a sad episode for Rollo as well. It’s about coming back but it’s also about cutting ties. And also taking responsibility for your past actions and owning them. And it’s also about a man who’s in later years of his life who’s starting to question where he’s going to go.
He is a man that I think he’s Viking through and through but he’s taken on another culture’s god and tries to make to a life for himself. I think when you get into your later years you start to think “is there an afterlife?” and where are you going. I think he’s starting to look at both sides of the coin and know that he’s going to be looked after in the afterlife.
(This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Vikings mid-Season 5 premieres on History on Nov. 28 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
HISTORY® is a Corus Entertainment Inc. network.
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